Last week, Anand Mahindra, vice chairman and MD, Mahindra Group, unveiled his firm’s new global brand identity.
On a roll, just like the Mahindras, a few other Indian companies are already batting on a pitch no longer restricted to the domestic geographies but spread over a much wider international map.
They include Airtel, Reliance ADAG and Godrej, who have already repositioned their brands to sync with their growing global image.
“Brand consciousness in India is increasing and all this is a natural evolution and a reflection of our economy. It’s a good start and going in the right direction. How much of this will survive in the long run is yet to be seen,” said Ravi Kumar, VP business development, Bajaj Auto. The two-wheeler maker is undergoing a major change as it plans to drop the Bajaj name from its products and showrooms.
Corporate India is showing an upward trend in terms of global expansion, mergers and acquisitions (M&As) — both inbound and outbound. According to a Grant Thornton survey of 100 top Indian companies, 85% have a positive outlook on strategic M&As in 2011. Corporate India's confidence level is backed by strong fundamentals including significant improvement in business and financial performance.
“You've got to stay ahead of the crowd,” said Scott Goodson, founder & chairman, StrawberryFrog, the New York-based ad agency responsible for Mahindra’s brand new vision, ‘Rise’. “Now is the time for Indian companies to establish their brands globally.”
There’s reason enough for the Mahindra Group rebranding itself now. In a somewhat similar exercise 13 years ago, it had articulated its core purpose as "Indians are second to none". Today, with 10% of Mahindra's 11,200-strong workforce being foreign nationals, the group needed a new rallying cry. Mahindra is present in 79 countries, with group companies including an Australian aerospace company and South Korean automaker Ssangyong Motor Company, acquired last year.
“At a global level, we are not as well known. Further, the Indian market is becoming as competitive as any global market. We need to address two imperatives — strengthen our brand in India and build a brand globally. We hope that this exercise helps us achieve both these objectives,” said Ruzbeh Irani, EVP - corporate strategy and chief brand officer, Mahindra Group, and member of the executive board.
“Our research shows that the promise we have made to our consumers with ‘Rise’ has a clear connect. How well the connect translates into consumer loyalty will depend on how well we deliver on this promise,” said Irani.
The Godrej Group, now present in Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa and Uruguay and looking for further acquisitions, is seeing its international business contributing at least 30% to its turnover, thanks to the re-branding initiative it went for almost two years ago. The re-branding has helped it register a jump of 20-25% points in the purchase disposition of consumers, the company says.
“Repositioning is an important exercise not just restricted to a logo change. It is also about the change within an organisation, its products and other virtues,” said chairman Adi Godrej.
“Such exercises are guided by both internal and external factors. The repositioning must be done with a thorough understanding of the existing realities — internal and external. Just tinkering with the brand — the most crucial asset of a company — may go wrong if the brand tries to be something and ends up being something else,” said Santosh Desai, brand expert and MD & CEO of FutureBrands.
"Our effort is geared to address future consumers. We believe transformation should come when times are good and not when you are in a crisis. Otherwise, investments come under pressure,” said Godrej.
Telecom operator Airtel went in for a global rebranding spanning across India, Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Seychelles. “We have chosen to re-brand at a time when we are already the dominant player and the idea is to remain the same. It is merely a signal to the consumers that we are changing,” said Mohit Beotra, brand head, Airtel. He added that the acceptance level, according to the company’s internal parameters, scores a 70:30 in favour of the new logo and positioning. Experts, however, point to the social networking sites where the new logo has been thrashed.
“In Airtel's case, the more consumers saw the logo, it reminded them of some other brand. A brand changes its identity to make more people like it. If that’s not the case, then the whole effort becomes counterproductive,” Naresh Gupta, national planning director, Cheil India, commented.
But like it or hate it, everyone has noticed Airtel’s new logo. Airtel has unfolded a brand new advertising campaign, led by TV ads, that reflects the more international look and feel it wants to project, around its new identity.
Last month, Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADAG re-branded its businesses as ‘Reliance’, dropping ADAG and maintaining individual service identities. “ADAG has been in existence for over five years and the brand identity is established. The idea behind the repositioning is to move from multiple Reliance sub-brands to a singular iconic Reliance masterbrand,” said Sanjay Behl, head – brand and marketing, Reliance (ADAG), which is present in telecom, power, infrastructure and entertainment.